Response: The World Will Follow Joy

11Feb14
Photo credit to American Libraries Magazine. Click through to read story.

Photo credit to American Libraries Magazine. Click through to read story.

This wonderful collection of gentle, socially conscious, poems is a no-brainer choice for anyone who was already a Walker fan, but it is a nice introduction to her and her major themes/concerns as well.The subtitle, Turning Madness Into Flowers, is an indication that these are poems about transformation, namely the manure of everyday life into the blossoms of peace. In her foreword, Walker confidently asserts that the time is coming soon when we will choose peace, if only because we won’t be able to stand the pain of doing otherwise much longer. It’s a sobering, no-nonsense way to look at the world we live in, and yet, at the same time, filled with hope.

The poems are easy to read in the sense that Walker’s tone is conversational. The goal here is not to be clever with language; the goal is to tell a story, as in my favorite piece, “This is a story of how love works.” In it, Walker details how she met the woman who inspired her to found a girls’ orphanage in Kenya. Because Yoko Ono helped with funding, the story also includes the tale of how Walker met Sean Lennon. Pictures are included. Could the piece have been told in prose? Sure, but making it a poem adds an aura of joy and graciousness: it is a story, but it’s more than a story, too. Using poetic form emphasizes how special it is to love other people, to give, to open your heart to them. And including the pictures reinforces the idea that Walker’s talking about real people, not just abstract concepts of love and connection.

While the bulk of the poems are joyful celebrations of good things and people in Walker’s life, some speak to ongoing problems in our world that still cause pain, such as “The Raping of Maids,” “9/11: An Irrelevant Truth,” and, most poignantly, “Word Reaches Us,” which is dedicated to Gabrielle Giffords:

Sister, whom I never met

except in this pain that has so

wounded you

thank you for reminding us

through your suffering

and your suspenseful sleep

that we must change.

Walker’s calls to action are always gentle, but they’re also firm and no-nonsense, as if she’s looking you in the eye and saying, “All right now. We need to end this foolishness together. Are you with me?” And how can you not be?

Some poems are just plain fun, and reveal the author’s sincere joy in living. The best of these is “What do I get for getting old? A Picture Story for the Curious! (You supply the pictures!)” A gleeful catalog of all the blessings one gains with age, it is liberally sprinkled with exclamation points and the recurring refrain:

I get to spend time with myself

whenever I want!

and finishes with a triumphant flourish:

…no matter the losses, there’s

something fabulous going on at every stage

of Life, something to let go of, maybe, but  for

darn sure, something to get!

All of this, and so much more–a truly joyful collection, infused with a sincere desire for peace and justice, not just pretty words, but backed up by actions Walker has taken and crafted poems about. Filled with love, both for people she knows and people she doesn’t. Steeped in Buddhist and feminist thought. A wonderful collection for anyone seeking a little solace in our fractured world, and a good introduction to poetry for people who are intimidated by it, or worry they won’t like it.

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